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European Commission - Comenius

European Commission - Education and Culture

Project Details

MAking MAThEmatics TEAchers MObile

129543-CP-1-2006-1 -IT-COMENIUS-C21


Project span

Project Coordinator

CAFRE Centro di Ateneo di Formazione e Ricerca Educativa
Università di Pisa

Contact person


Project Partners

(AT) Universität Wien

(CZ) Univerzita Karlova v Praze

(DK) University College Lillebælt, Skårup Seminarium

(FR) Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres de l'Académie de Créteil

Teaching Maths in a Foreign Language
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French Data Analysis of the Questionnaire for Teachers

About you
  1. Fourteen teachers have answered: nine teach in lower secondary school, five in upper secondary school.
  2. All of them teach only mathematics.
  3. All of them speak English; four speak English and Spanish; one speaks English and German, one speaks English and Arab.
  4. Four teachers assess their English standard “good”. Most of the others have a school standard, or think they can write well, but cannot speak so well.
Professional experiences
  1. Only four teachers asked a language teacher how they could translate a mathematical word or phrase into a foreign language.
  2. Only one teacher says mentions that a language teacher has asked him the meaning of mathematical words or phrases.
  3. Only one taught mathematics in a foreign language: for mental arithmetic.
  4. None of them ever collaborated with a language teacher.
  5. Five teachers have heard of European schools departments. One mention the case situation of upper secondary schools in Basque country where you can teach in Basque (it’s a specific case of regional languages).
  1. Half of them think it’s not important to know a foreign language to teach mathematics. The second half has an opposite opinion for the following reasons:
  2. Among the angles which are mentioned in the introduction, the most important aspects are teacher’s mobility (more often mentioned), then competences for reading and discussing mathematics.
  3. To use common expressions in respective languages is the biggest difficulty to communicate, when the teacher and the pupils do not share the same mother tongue. Then also mention general problems like vocabulary and pronounce. There is another interesting aspect: the question of the conceptualization and definition steps during the school progression.
  4. Most teachers who were asked think it’s possible to teach mathematics in a foreign language, because of their universal feature and they think it is easier at upper than at lower secondary schools. But they often see a difficulty when you have to answer the pupils’ questions.
  5. Opinions are divided. Teachers who do not agree find it would be an additional difficulty for pupils. Teachers who agree have different arguments as following:
    • access to books or magazines written in English,
    • the opportunity to attend training courses abroad,
    • the opportunity « to separate mathematics from French » and particularly to work logical links in mathematics.
  6. No many solid opinions, except the mention of open-mindedness to unusual lexical fields.
  7. The topics that can ideally be taught in a foreign language would be:
    • geometry: an introduction to demonstration, writing a demonstration, transformations,
    • algebra: an introduction of letters,
    • reading of problems texts (1 time ),
    • statistics (1 time).
    Professional development
    1. Very few teachers (3) have collaborated with an another subject’s teacher (history and French).
    2. Half of the asked teachers think it would be useful for their practice to teach in a foreign language. They think it is necessary for the teacher to “re-mind his course”; he has to pay attention to the vocabulary he uses and to be careful in his way to correct pupils’ mistakes.
    3. All of them doubt a lot that language teachers can profit from cooperation with maths teachers. They are afraid of «mixture of types » (a technical and academic subject: mathematics, and another one meant to communicate in everyday life), they are afraid to ask pupils too much esoteric terms.
    4. Opinions are very divided. Those who agree say it would be useful for their personal development (cultural openings, by changing habits).
    5. Half of them answer « yes ». All mention the necessity to know other curricula in order to be aware of the pupils’ prerequisites. Most of all think the course preparation would be harder.
    6. The prerequisites needed: language mastery (written and oral) and knowledge of national curricula.
    7. The prerequisites are different if the language of instruction is the pupil’s mother tongue and a foreign language for the teacher. Once again they ask the question of common expressions and of knowledge of national curricula. The teacher’s mastery of the foreign language has to be better in this case than in the case of teaching in a foreign language to pupils who share the teacher’s mother tongue.
    8. Two levels for providing the skills:
      • a specific practical training, written and oral, in France,
      • a training abroad, and particularly visits of classrooms.

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